Homecoming Weekend usually represents a vital CAA clash - such as last season's narrow loss to Maine that ultimately may have put the dagger in Villanova's playoff chances. The 2014 version will feature an opponent that not only comes from another conference, but has never met the Wildcats on the gridiron.
Morgan State hails from the MEAC, a relatively weak FCS football conference that boasts just one Top-25 team at the moment (Bethune-Cookman). The historically black college located in Baltimore, Maryland has had an up-and-down season thus far under first-year coach Lee Hull. The Bears dropped their first two games by a combined six points, but have gone 4-1 since then.
Both schools are entering the contest feeling good. John Robertson led Villanova on a game-winning drive to down William & Mary 35-31 a week ago. Morgan State is coming to the Main Line with some momentum of their own after a thrilling come-from-behind win over NC Central - Robert Council found Andrew King for a touchdown with 32 seconds left for a 21-20 win.
While the Wildcats have been putting their opponents in to submission with one of the nation's top offensive attacks, the Bears have bee winning ugly. Head coach Lee Hull's offensive background would suggest that he would like to air the ball out as much as possible, but he doesn't quite have the personnel for that gameplan.
Council is labeled as a dual-threat quarterback, but with a career completion percentage under 50% (44.6% this season), it's easy to see that he's going to do most of his damage on the ground, where he's picked up 4.9 ypc and 6 touchdowns so far this season. He's complimented by Walter Payton-candidate Herb Walker Jr. who's averaging 6.7 ypc with 9 touchdowns on the season. Add in a veteran offensive line and it's easy to see this is one of the better rushing attacks in the country.
The backfield mates will team up in an option-style rushing attack - something the Villanova defense hasn't seen yet this season. Don Cherry, who was added to the Buchanan Watch List this week, and his defensive mates will have to display solid assignment discipline if they hope to slow down the Bears on Saturday. Coach Hull will undoubtedly look to play ball-control in an effort to keep John Robertson off the field.
Speaking of John Robertson, he and the offense should find things a bit easier this week. Morgan State's defense looks decent on paper averaging just 20.3 points per game, but as mentioned they haven't seen a group quite like the Wildcats yet. Robertson ran the ball much more often last week, and Austin Medley is back from injury, giving Talley two more weapons to compliment Kevin Monangai and Gary Underwood, who have starred during the brief injury crisis.
Despite an injury to Earnest Pettway, the passing attack hasn't slowed down much. Poppy Livers, Mike Burke and Kevin Gulyas have taken turns as Robertson's preferred target, and even Lincoln Collins, Clay Horne and Aaron Wells have stepped up in recent weeks. There's no shortage of weapons through the air.
With a clean bill of health after last week's thriller in Williamsburg, the 'Cats should be able to handle the Bears relatively easily. But if they experience an emotional letdown or play a sloppy brand of football, they could find themselves in hot water. As Andy Talley stated, this isn't a CAA game, but the goal has to be to keep winning and set the team up for a high-seed come playoff time.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm ET on Saturday at Villanova Stadium, and the Villanova Football Club will be tailgating at 11:30am.